CHICAGO — Sharon Coatney is the 2012 recipient of the American Association of School Librarians' (AASL) Distinguished Service Award. Established in 1978 and sponsored by Baker and Taylor, the award recognizes an individual member of the library profession who has, over a significant period of time, made an outstanding national contribution to school librarianship and school library development. Coatney was nominated by Linda Corey.
Dedicated to the profession, Coatney has been described as “influential in providing a model of what a school library should be.” She moved from directing a program in a small district in rural Kansas to serving in leadership positions in both state and national organizations. She shared her vision of school libraries while working on committees and as an active member of the Kansas Association of School Librarians advisory board before becoming organization president in 1995. She focused her presidency on identifying school library program collaboration and integration best practices.
Coatney moved seamlessly into leadership at the national level. She is a past president of AASL, as well as a past chair of several AASL committees, including the National Committee for the Study of Whole Language, National School Library Program of the Year, Teaching for Learning and Reading for Understanding. She represented school librarians as a member of ALA groups including the Membership and Education committees and as ALA councilor-At-large. She also was a member of the United States Board of Books for Young People (USBBY), chaired the library media standards committee of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and affiliated with the PBS online advisory board.
Advancing school libraries and librarians is also a theme that runs through Coatney's wide and varied body of published works. She is the editor of “The Many Faces of School Library Leadership,” a collection of essays by experts in the school library field that include research and practical application. In “Primary Voices,” a 2002-2008 regular column in Teacher Librarian, Coatney addressed concerns of and best practices for the school librarian. Currently, Coatney uses her experience and networking to bring titles on research in all areas of the curriculum into the hands of school librarians as senior acquisitions editor for Libraries Unlimited.
“Sharon promotes the beliefs, values, and mission of AASL in all her work, whether networking with practitioners, presenting at conferences, authoring texts and articles, or identifying experts and leaders in the field as potential authors,” read the nomination application submitted by Corey. “Sharon articulates the mission of AASL in ways that inspire building-level school librarians to empower ‘students to be critical thinkers, enthusiastic readers, skillful researchers, and ethical users of ideas and information’ even when faced with multiple barriers. The depth of her leadership and service has and will continue to impact librarians, libraries, and most importantly our students.”
"Sharon is definitely someone who is giving and has given distinguished service to the school library profession and to AASL," said Diane Chen, award committee chair. "Sharon has never stopped serving in the leadership role she established when she was a dynamic school librarian in the Blue Valley Schools. She remained a building level practitioner until she retired and she continues to support the school librarians she has known over the years. The committee is honored to recognize Sharon's commitment with the AASL Distinguished Service Award."
Coatney and other AASL award winners will be honored at AASL's Awards Luncheon during ALA's 2012 Annual Conference in Anaheim, Calif. The luncheon will be held Monday, June 25. Carmen Agra Deedy, best-selling author and ardent supporter of libraries, will attend the ceremony courtesy of Peachtree Publishing. Ticket information can be found on the AASL website at www.ala.org/aasl/annual.
The American Association of School Librarians, www.aasl.org, a division of the American Library Association (ALA), promotes the improvement and extension of library services in elementary and secondary schools as a means of strengthening the total education program. Its mission is to advocate excellence, facilitate change and develop leaders in the school library field.